Homemade Tomato Sauce

the essence of good tomato sauce: high quality tomatoes, basil, and (missing from the photo) extra virgin olive oil. Good tomato sauce is easy!

Our traditional, homemade tomato sauce, uses crushed, uncooked, tomatoes from our annual Fall tomato canning event.  Tomato sauce is easy to make and incredibly versatile.  We use tomato sauce for pasta, other sauces, soups, etc.  Making homemade sauce is a no-brainer, so don’t purchase the canned variety at your local supermarket.  Plus, our recipe hails from Calabria, Italy – a region that produces some of the best tasting tomatoes on the planet.

Here’s our quick recipe:

Making the raw product: this is basically crushed plum tomatoes that are canned in the late Summer and is the base for my tomato sauce

Homemade Tomato Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 large Mason jar of homemade crushed, plum, tomatoes (uncooked) or 2, 28 ounce cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes. If the price doesn't blow your budget, opt for canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy (SanMarzano and Cento both use tomatoes from Italy). The tomatoes I crush in the summer for canning are from plum or roma varieties from New Jersey.
  • 1 large red onion finely diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves finely diced
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (for sautéing onion and garlic, click here for a review of olive oils)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar (optional if you have superb tomatoes, standard for all other tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon dried Oregano (if you can find the imported kind from Italy it will make a difference)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  1. Start with a medium sized pot with a lid - Le Creuset makes a nice 8.5 round casserole pot but you don't have to get fancy (any pot will do). Begin to heat your pot and thereafter (about 4-5 minutes later) add the finely diced onions and garlic (along with a bit of salt and pepper). Saute the onions and garlic until the mixture becomes translucent and, thereafter, add the crushed tomatoes and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil and then set your heat to simmer. Next, add the sugar, dried oregano, pepper, and salt to your pot and mix well. Let the mixture simmer for 35-45 minutes without the lid (you can keep the lid on but your sauce will become a bit thicker). You'll want to mix the sauce every 15 minutes or so. Some folks let tomato sauce simmer "for hours", but I haven't found that a longer cooking period increases flavor (what it does do is turn tomato sauce into thick "gravy", which isn't very appealing in my book).
  2. Once the sauce has finished cooking transfer the contents of the pot to a food mill; note, the food mill should sit on a large bowl to catch the processed tomato sauce (I like to do this in the sink so I don't make a mess).
  3. A food mill is a great, inexpensive, tool and it yields a perfect consistency for tomato sauce (and also opens up the flavor of all the ingredients).

A food mill is a great, inexpensive, tool and it yields a perfect consistency for tomato sauce (and also opens up the flavor of all the ingredients).  The brand I like is called, Mouli; I see this mill all over Italy and for $39.99 it’s a great product!

Strozzapreti, or priest choker pasta, with our homemade tomato sauce
The mighty food mill, a kitchen staple and necessary for any good tomato sauce; note you don

That’s it, you’re done with making homemade tomato sauce!  Note if you want to turn the above tomato sauce recipe into a “meat sauce” simply use your pot to brown 4-5 pork spare ribs, 6-7 medium sized meatballs, and 4-5 links of pork sausage.  You’ll want to remove the meat after browning and begin sautéing the onion and garlic mixture. Add the meat to your pot after adding the seasonings and cook the entire 45 minute time period (the key with getting a flavorful sauce via meat is to brown the ribs, meatballs, and sausage well).

Simple ingredients for a simple tomato sauce: dried oregano from Calabria, garlic, red onion, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper

Related Links:

passato from Fall tomato canning, this is not yet tomato sauce as it needs to be cooked with onion, garlic, and herbs/spices


  1. This looks wonderful! Thank you for the recipe. I can’t wait to give it a try. Thanks for the links to the San Marzano tomatoes as well. I’ll take your advice and get some from Italy.
    A quick question about the meat. Do you only use it for flavoring, or after browning, would you cut up the spare ribs and sauges to leave in the sauce for eating?

  2. Hi Jen,
    What I usually do is serve the meat after the pasta, but I know many people like to have the meat with the pasta.
    I usually prepare a salad, maybe another green, and the meat as the second course (this way you’re spacing out the food a bit and get to taste more of the nicely braised pork / meatballs).
    P.S. Another tip is that you don’t have to buy expensive parmigiano reggiano cheese for grating, try grana padano instead (it tastes like parmigiano but is much cheaper)!

  3. Hey Vin,
    I’ve never used red tomatoes in sauce, but will try. I use them mostly for salads! Thanks for the tip on the cheese. I’ve never seen or heard of that. Will look for it at Corrado’s!

  4. Might i suggest veal meatballs

  5. In Defense of Making Your Own Food or Julia Childs Was Right

    How is it that we are so eager to watch other people browning beef cubes on screen but so much less eager to brown them ourselves? For the rise of Julia Child as a figure of cultural consequence — along…

  6. Arancini di Riso Recipe

    (thanks to mondo del gusto for the photo) One of my favorite dishes at a local trattoria in New Jersey is an appetizer consisting of potato croquets, mozzarella in Carrozza  (mozzarella sticks), calzoncini (friend pockets of dough), and arancini (…

  7. Hi Vince—
    Got to this post through the archives. Perfect sauce recipe! I do it the same way with the exception of we may throw in a splash of red wine or cooking wine to enhance the flavor. I like to experiment just to see if I can make the sauce taste a little better than it was before.

  8. Italian Dried Pasta Taste Test and Rustichella d’Abruzzo Contest

    (photo: incorporating olive oil, garlic, and parsley with spaghettini) Back in September of 2009, in my overview of dried pasta entry, I made the claim that dry pasta is NOT inferior to freshly made pasta (this is the type of…

  9. Great recipe- I usually buy the canned plum tomatoes and crush them myself- I use fresh basil in place of the oregano- never tried the red onion- I usually use regular onion- I have to try the red ones! I love using pork neck bones to make my meat sauce…a few pork ribs and of course some meatballs…great post- I better get cooking you made me desire pasta for dinner!

  10. While admiring your photographic images and reading your description of the meal . . . I went back and noticed that the garlic (in the first image) still had dirt and stems on it. That is a true sign of love ~ directly from the garden of someone who used no pesticides and grew them with care. I’m so glad to see that you use wonderful ingredients!
    ed hardy

  11. Cheap Dinner: Wild Mackerel with Tomato Salad and Orzo with Zucchini and Parsley

    (Photo: Orzo with zucchini, bits of tomato, and parsley)With the arrival of August, our household starts the summer tradition of consuming copious amounts of fresh tomatoes (at times for both lunch and dinner) – see my entries on tomato…

  12. Canning Tomatoes for Passato

    (photos: Jersey plum tomatoes washed and ready to be cut)August is prime season for canning tomatoes and this year’s Jersey plum tomatoes are outstanding!  The Scordo family purchased about five bushels of locally grown plum tomatoes and canned on…

  13. I usually prepare a salad, maybe another green, and the meat as the second course (this way you’re spacing out the food a bit and get to taste more of the nicely braised pork / meatballs).

  14. Scordo Pasta Challenge: #72A Linguine Fine with Calamari in Tomato Sauce

    (photo: linguine fine tossed with tomato sauce and grilled calamari) I bet you thought the Scordo Pasta Challenge lost a bit of steam during the late summer!  You shouldn’t, however, fear because we’re back with shape #72A, the extraordinary lingu…

  15. Italian Rituals: The Sunday Visit

    (photo: nonno and nonna’s New Jersey basement where I first experienced the “Sunday Visit”)One of the nicest Italian rituals I continue to observe to this day is the “Sunday visit”  The idea of the Sunday visit is centered on…

  16. Scordo Pasta Challenge – #141 Tagliatelle with Tomato Sauce

    Wow, wow, and even more wow!  I was blown away by a dry pasta from the Italian pasta company Pastificio Vicidomini, specifically the Tagliatelle. The Tagliatelle shape has been around for a long period of time and originally comes…

  17. Best of Scordo.com 2010: Italian Recipes, Food, Products, and Advice,

     (photo: The Scordo.com World Cup flag; unfortunately, we didn’t have a reason to bring it out this past World Cup)I wanted to wish our loyal Scordo.com readers a Happy New Year and Buon Anno! and also list our top ten…

  18. Un pò d’amore per Scordo.com Fundraiser

    (photo: Our cousin Diego in Calabria says, please donate to Scordo.com Vincenzo needs Un pò d’amore!)   Un pò d’amore…Scordo.com needs your love.  Well, specifically, we’re launching our first ever fundraiser to help off-set the c…

  19. Scordo Pasta Challenge – Pasta Shape #102 Penne Lisce

    (photo: penne lisce with tomato sauce, photo taken with iPhone) Say it slowly, almost in a whisper: “L-I-S-C-E” (doesn’t it sound sexy).  OK, come back to reality now and specifically the Scordo Pasta Challenge.  The word lisce is translated …

  20. Rigatoni with Braised Short Ribs in Tomato Sauce Recipe

     (photo: final dish: large rigatoni with braised short ribs in tomato sauce)Short (beef) ribs are cut from the plate and rib section of the animal and are one of my favorite additions to tomato sauce during the winter months.  Short…

  21. Overview of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano

     (photo: a cheese festival in Modena Italy.  thanks to wikivisual for the photo)Part of the negative aspects of the industrial food system in America are the disassociations between “real food” and “synthetic food.”   Take, for…

  22. Le Pagnotte di Enna or Loaves of Enna (Sicily) Bread Recipe

    (photo: courtesy of Dr. K. – loaves of Enna bread from Sicily)The following Pagnotte di Enna recipe was adopted from theArtisan.net web site who adopted their recipe from the book, Scienza e Technologia della Panificazione by Prof. Giovanni Quaglia….

  23. Tomato Sauce Made from Pomodori Pelati, Homemade Ravioli, and La Castellina Olive Oil

    Every once in a while a particular recipe I’ve made hundreds of times tastes like something completely different.  For example, my wife Erin (who secretly does much of the cooking behind Scordo.com!) made a batch of tomato sauce and I q…

  24. Fried Peppers, Onions, and Potatoes Calabrese Style and Baked Eggplant Rolotini

    (photo: red and yellow peppers fried along side red onion and potatoes, including plenty of hot peppers)The region of Calabria, and the birthplace of my parents, is widely known for its variety of peppers, including the hot and sweet…

  25. How to Make Pizza Sauce

    (photo: Our pizza sauce is quickly cooked with dried oregano, extra virgin olive oil, Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper).I’ve always stuck to the claim that you can make pretty good pizza at home.  My critics argue that…

  26. 2010 Sangaspano Extra Virgin Olive Oil

     (photo: Sangaspano extra virgin olive oil from Messina, Sicilia)On the morning of December 28th, 1908 a massive earthquake and associated tsunami hit the western province of Calabria and moved across the Stretto di Messina into Sicilia destr…

  27. Stovetop Eggplant Parmigiana Recipe

    (photo: stove top eggplant parmigiana)One of the interesting culinary tidbits in Calabria is that most home cooks do not use their oven during the summer months given the intense weather.  The logic makes sense, however what does the dedicated…

  28. How To: Canning Tomatoes For Homemade Tomato Sauce

    Along with making our own wine and sun dried tomatoes,  my family also cans fresh plum tomatoes every August.  The canned tomatoes are used mostly for making tomatoe sauce.  Canning your tomatoes produces a better tasting toma…

  29. 8 Tips to Make Great Pasta at Home: From My Childhood Block in New Jersey

     (photo: spaghetti with peas, ricotta, and tomato sauce)  Growing up in Northern NJ on a densely packed block full of immigrant families (mostly from Calabria) both Thursday and Sunday were special days.  That is to say, for ma…

  30. Meatballs with Tomato Sauce (Polpette al sugo)

    The Italian meatball (believed to have originated during the Roman Empire around 55 AD.) has reached legendary status here in the United States and like it’s counterpart in Italy has many variations, as well as differences in how they…

  31. String (Grean) Beans Stewed in Tomato Sauce (Fagiolini in umido)

    (photo: green beans with tomatoes.)One of the most popular side dishes in Calabria is Fagiolini in umido or green beans stewed in tomato sauce.  The key to this very simple recipe is a good basic tomato sauce and fresh green…

  32. Scordo Pasta Challenge: #13 Cannelloni with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce

    (photo: Cannelloni ready to eat!   Because the pasta is baked after boiling, the tomato sauce tends to thicken up a bit).Cannelloni have a special place in my heart as I’ve always consumed them on special days (such as a…

  33. Cannelloni with Beef (Cannelloni di Manzo)

    (photo: cannelloni with tomato sauce, filled with ground beef) Stuffed pasta, of any variety, is adored in Italy and it is served on special occasions and on ordinary Sundays.  Stuffed pasta includes ravioli, tortellini, lasagna, cannelloni, …

  34. Radiatori with Small Meatballs (Radiatori con Polpettini) – Scordo Pasta Challenge #114

    (photo: radiatori with tomato sauce or ragu and tiny meatballs or polpettini)Radiatori are medium sized (short) pasta shapes that look like older style radiators (hence the name).  Radiatori are thick, have a ruffled edge, and are used like fusill…

  35. 15 Simple Italian Food and Wine Pairings

    (photo: a seafood feast from a local trattoria in Calabria, including sardine, swordfish, cod, octopus, etc.)When it comes to wine and food we’re big believers in two things: 1., if possible, try to map the ingredients of a given…

  36. Vincent, why does your picture of tomato sauce have fresh basil in it and yet the recipe itself does not include fresh basil?

    • Good catch, Gregg. We have a ton of photos that we use with the site and at times the recipe and photo are not done all the same time frame. We’ll make the change. You can of course use basil in homemade tomato sauce!

  37. Most of your recipes and articles are good and informative.
    This is the most incomplete, misleading and ridiculous sugo recipe I’ve ever seen.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.